Children’s Mercy Kansas City Opens Youth Clinic to Address Mental Health Care Crisis

Children’s Mercy Kansas City Opens Youth Clinic to Address Mental Health Care Crisis

The nation’s youth are facing an unprecedented mental health crisis. More than 15 million children need mental health services, but only 30-50 percent receive care. In the Kansas City region, those numbers are higher, with 40-50 percent going untreated.

Among the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in teenagers are depression and anxiety, which have significantly increased since the pandemic. To help address the mental health needs in the community, Children’s Mercy Kansas City opened the Depression and Anxiety in Youth (DAY) Clinic, the hospital’s first program dedicated to treating these conditions using cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance, and commitment therapy, and mindfulness approaches to help stabilize patients and strengthen their coping skills.

“The message from primary care physicians in the community was loud and clear: Anxiety and depression treatment needs to be a priority,” said Sarah Soden, MD, the Nick Timmons Endowed Chair in Developmental & Behavioral Sciences and the Division Director, Developmental and Behavioral Health. “Our goal is to make sure more young people are getting access to early intervention before it becomes a crisis.”

Experts from psychology, psychiatry, social work, and nursing provide collaborative care through group therapy, individual therapy, and medication management for patients ages 12 to 17 with known or suspected depression and anxiety. Patients are treated for up to 12 months and then transition to community resources for ongoing support.

The team-based approach is led by Clinical Psychologist Sarah Beals-Erickson, PhD, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Ram Chettiar, DO.

“We are finding that rates of depression and anxiety are increasing in our youth, which impacts daily functioning and overall well-being,” Chettiar said. “While the statistics are daunting, early and effective intervention can make a significant difference.”

Beals-Erickson added that without proper treatment, depression and anxiety can lead to low self-esteem, isolation, and a sense of hopelessness, “By providing youth with the right coping skills, they can improve their overall mental health and prevent future episodes.”

The DAY Clinic is one of the first of 14 mental health projects Children’s Mercy will launch over the next five years. This project is part of the comprehensive Illuminate initiative, requiring a $150M new investment to provide enhanced access to evidence-based screening, diagnosis, and treatment while expanding the collective network of care.

The four focus areas of Illuminate include facilitating early intervention through the integration of mental health care and behavioral therapy services in school-based programs, primary and specialty care to prevent youth from reaching a mental health emergency, increasing specialty services for ADHD, Autism and eating disorders with a focus on improved health equity for the most vulnerable populations, investing in research to broaden knowledge and practice of evidence-based care, leading to data-driven treatments and innovations, and expanding inpatient hospital care to help children in need by increasing the number of beds available in the community.

To learn more about Illuminate, the 14 projects, and to access mental health resources, click here.

By: Children’s Mercy Kansas City